In his first piece for The Near Post, Joe Holbrook looks at Matt Taylor’s start to life at Rotherham United, before giving an insight into what the Millers’ fans can expect from the former Exeter City boss moving forward.
Matt Taylor departed his role of manager at Exeter City on 3rd October 2022 to join Championship side Rotherham United. Taylor spent four successful years in the South West; taking over from Paul Tisdale in 2018 and guiding the fan-owned club to automatic promotion in 2021/22. The 40-year-old left Exeter with the club sat 11th in League One after a bright start to the campaign. Born in Chorley, Taylor returns to his northern roots alongside assistant manager Wayne Carlisle.
Taylor has been praised for his attacking ethos and brand of football. Furthermore, he has nurtured a plethora of young talent that have gone on to be sold for up to seven figures or have become established first-team players at Exeter. Rotherham have picked up seven points from Taylor’s first four games in charge, with a 1-1 draw at home to Millwall and a 3-0 loss to Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. The Millers have won successive games since then, with a 2-1 home victory against Yorkshire-rivals Huddersfield Town and, most recently, an impressive 1-0 away win against Alex Neil’s Stoke City. So, what more can Rotherham fans expect to see from Matt Taylor’s men in the coming months?
Taylor predominantly set his Exeter team up in a 3-4-1-2 formation; relying on fluidity between the front-two, width provided by the wing-backs and midfielders who were comfortable on the ball and press-resistant. There were several parallels between Matt Taylor’s Exeter and Graham Potter’s Brighton – possession-heavy sides who relied on progressive passes and advanced players to find half-spaces that are created by the width of their wing-backs.
Off the ball, the three centre-backs used a high line in an attempt to have an efficient counter-press throughout the spine of the team, which began with the work rate and athleticism of Sam Nombe and Jevani Brown. Exeter’s ability to win the ball back high up the pitch was crucial in terms of regaining control of the ball and giving Exeter a productive way of fashioning high-quality chances.
At times, it would leave them exposed against teams who played with a low block and created goalscoring opportunities courtesy of long balls over the top. To combat this, Exeter’s defence would ideally have necessary recovery pace through the likes of Sam Stubbs and Cheick Diabate – two excellent talents who became stalwarts in Taylor’s side. However, another slight flaw was the Grecians’ lack of robustness and aerial dominance defensively. It meant that teams could theoretically identify Exeter’s flaws and expose them by absorbing pressure and creating their own chances through long balls or set pieces.
As expected, Rotherham have played akin to Exeter so far whilst managed by Taylor, yet the formation has been tweaked slightly with Dan Barlaser playing in a single pivot behind Oliver Rathbone and Ben Wiles. The removal of a No.10 at present perhaps suggests that Taylor wants Rotherham to have more stability and energy in midfield to combat the physicality and extra quality present in the Championship. We can also assume that, while Taylor will in time bring his front-foot philosophy to his new side and that the progression of youth will not stall, Rotherham may be forced to go direct at times. This would play to the strengths of Chieo Ogbene and Tom Eaves, who profited from that style under Paul Warne. I would expect the club’s recruitment team to work closely with Taylor to identify players who fit the managers requirements and, despite Rotherham’s relatively tight budget, don’t be surprised to see them move for a couple of Exeter’s key performers in the coming months.
A new era at Rotherham United has begun and it will be fascinating to see how adaptable the players are during the transition from Paul Warne’s Rotherham to Matt Taylor’s Rotherham. Having taken over from Paul Tisdale at Exeter, Taylor won’t be phased by replacing a long-serving, iconic figure such as Paul Warne. Ultimately, results in the short-term are vital if the Millers are to survive in the Championship this season; however, Matt Taylor’s abilities as a coach give me confidence that he will thrive at Rotherham in the medium to long term.
You can find Joe on Twitter (@JHScouting_)
(Photo Creds – Alex Taylor)